On August 25, 2001, with much of the European royalty looking on, Norway’s Crown Prince Haakon married the woman who was described by the New York Times as “no ordinary commoner.”
The bride is Mette-Marit Tjessem Hoiby, then 28, who was referred by the press during that time as "unconventional" and "uncommon" enough to be a modern-day Cinderella. She was after all a waitress and a mom to a then-four-year old who had a background on “heavy partying in Oslo's drug-filled ‘'house party’ milieu, New York Times reports.
The couple were introduced to each other through friends in 1999. Their eight-month-long engagement including a period of living together in an Oslo apartment was severely criticized by the conservative Church of Norway. In fact, the Royal Family’s population hit a record low during that time, especially that Mette-Marit had her drug-related past.
But all is well that ends well, so they say. King Harald V of Norway supported his son's decision given that His Majesty himself endured hardship as he tried to convince his own father to allow him to marry commoner Sonja Haraldsen. Mette-Marit herself clarified that she did not use drugs. "I would like to take this opportunity to say that I condemn drugs... I hope that I can now avoid talking more about my past, and that the press will respect this wish," she told in a press statement. The public support eventually rallied behind the couple and her honesty and sincerity endeared her to the Norwegians.
In fact, even King Harald praised the bride-to-be for her courage despite the initial backlash that she faced. "You are extraordinarily open and honest. You are extraordinarily committed. You have extraordinary determination. You have extraordinary courage,” the King told Mette-Marrit during the wedding day. "Today you have made an extraordinary choice. You are in love with Haakon to an extraordinary extent. And today you have chosen to embark on an extraordinary life," he continued.
In egalitarian Norway, the pomp and splendor associated with the royal wedding was a breath of fresh air. The ceremony at Oslo Cathedral saw the Crown Princess wore a bridal gown that she worked with designer Ove Harder Finseth and seamstress Anna Bratland. It was made of “thick silk crêpe and soft silk tulle, custom-dyed ecru,” according to the Royal Family’s official site. The skirt, inspired by Queen Maud’s gown, was made more regal by the a two-metre-long train. Mette-Marit looked every inch a princess on her wedding day with the tiara she wore. It was made in 1910 and gifted to her by no less than the King and Queen.
The whole of Norway was one with its Royal Family in celebrating the wedding. After all, the last royal wedding the country had witnessed was King Harald and Queen Sonja’s wedding in 1968. And for this, Oslo’s streets were “lavishly decorated,” “wreathed in red, blue and white flowers,” noted Hello! Well-wishers lined the streets of the capital with Norwegian flags at hand, eager to catch a glimpse of their Cinderella and her Prince Charming banners fluttered in the breeze.
After the wedding, the entourage and guests proceeded to the Royal Palace for the banquet. Guests included 4 kings, 5 queens, 6 heirs to the throne and 21 princes and princesses, not to mention 750 other distinguished guests. A second wedding banquet was held concurrently at the Oslo Military Society.
Aside from the members of the Norwegian Royal Family, the host of foreign royalties who were there included the Queen and Crown Prince of Denmark, the King and Queen of Sweeden with the Crown Princess, the Duke of Varmland and the Duchess of Hälsingland and Gästrikland, the Queen of Spain and the Prince of Asturias, the King and Queen of the Belgians with the Duke of Brabant, the Grand Duke and Grand Duchess of Luxembourg with Grand Duke Jean and Granduchess Josephine Charlotte, the Hereditary Grand Duke, and Prince Guillaume and Princess Sibilla, King Constantine and Queen Anne-Marie of the Hellenes, Princess Benedikte of Denmark, Princess Nathalie of Sayn-Wittgenstein-Berleburg, Princess Alexandra of Sayn-Wittgenstein-Berleburg and Count Jefferson von Pfeil und Klein-Ellguth, the Prince of Wales, the Earl and Countess of Wessex, the Prince of Orange and her then-fiancee Máxima Zorreguieta, Prince Constantijn and Princess Laurentien of the Netherlands, and the Hereditary Prince of Monaco.
The couple were blessed with two children, Princess Ingrid Alexandra, the second-in-line to the throne, and Prince Sverre Magnus.
Image source: The Royal House of Norway's official website.